Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Protected Bike Lanes

Cities Are Reinventing Transportation Planning for the Age of the Public Beta

2:04 PM EDT on July 10, 2015

A three-day test of a protected bike lane on SW 3rd Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Greg Raisman
pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

As protected bike lanes and other new-to-North-America designs have spread, they've created an exciting new era for American traffic engineers, who are once again getting the chance to solve new and interesting problems on our streets.

But they're also creating a new golden age for another important but unsung civil servant: the public outreach specialist.

Here's the latest evidence, from Delaware: Next week, a team of city workers in the university town of Newark are going to test a protected bike lane concept by installing it for exactly one hour and getting volunteers to try it out.

It's a simple, practical idea. But if you've been watching closely, you'll also recognize this as part of a big change that's sweeping through the profession of transportation planning.

If you were into computer software, you might say we're now in the age of the public beta.

Urban planning as we now know it emerged from a very different era, when renderings of our most important infrastructure projects looked more like this:

The never-built I-95/695 interchange in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Via Hyperreal Cartography

And less like this:

The soon-to-be-finished Hampline in Memphis. Via Alta Planning + Design

When you're building freeways, adding turn lanes and bulldozing neighborhoods, all the planning has to happen first. You can't beta-test a freeway.

In the modern age of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, that's changed completely. On-street testing can be built right into the public process.

Here are a few other examples we've seen recently:

In an earlier era, it'd be unthinkable to plan a city by knocking down houses first and asking questions later. But when you're doing biking and walking projects, doing work on the street early in your process isn't a way to avoid public engagement. It's a way to dramatically improve it.

You can follow The Green Lane Project on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Are So Fresh and So Clean

The only thing Americans love more than a car is a clean car.

February 23, 2024

CalBike: Tell the Legislature Hands Off Active Transportation Funding

Calbike has an action alert that allows its members to write directly to legislators with their feelings on whether or not the ATP funding should be restored before the legislature votes on the budget in June.

February 22, 2024

Oakland Rips Out Protected Bike Lane on Embarcadero

The city and the councilmember who represents District 2 complain about lack of resources for safety projects, but somehow they have the resources to rip out protected bike lanes.

February 22, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: The Annual Yonah Freemark Show, Part II

This week, let's talk about transit funding in general and the Roosevelt Boulevard subway in Philadelphia, specifically.

February 22, 2024

State DOTs Spend Even More Money on Highway Expansions Than We Thought

Advocates knew states would go on a highway widening binge when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed — but they didn't know it would be quite this bad.

February 22, 2024
See all posts